Kassius Ohno vs. Tommasso Ciampa, WWE NXT #448 – May 9th, 2018
With his continuing feud with Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa is arguably the top heel on NXT. Sure, Adam Cole may have the newly minted North American title and may get a great reaction from the crowd, but retaining most of his Bullet Club persona, he is just a bit too liked to compete with the Sicilian Psychopath. This massive amount of heat creates a wonderful but difficult situation for the creative side of the brand. NXT simply doesn’t have the format to assure that Ciampa can compete every week and they risk slowing his momentum by throwing enhancement talent at him. They also need to remind the crowd just how good of a performer he is, something else that is lost with squash matches. Here is a guy so hated that he doesn’t even need entrance music to get the crowd interested. That probably won’t carry over on to Raw or Smackdown!, but it is certainly something they’ll want to embrace as long as they can. But, who can you put him against that won’t sidetrack his feud?
The solution: Kassius Ohno.
The former Chris Hero is not only one of the most skilled performers on the roster, but one of the most important names of the early 2000s indy boom. A contemporary of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, Ohno has competed all over the world against some of the best in the history of the business. Ohno has a rather unique role in the WWE at large. Ohno is often sent to associated indy promotions to perform, as his reputation could get him booked anywhere in the world anyway. Ohno represents that early “Super-Indy” feel of NXT, something that fans still yearn for, but by the fact of its success, has faded in recent years.
Watch this match and you’ll see some of the finest storytelling on the brand. This could have been a match on a Takeover, but actually fits the weekly show as Ohno is becoming a gatekeeper of sorts for the roster. If you can get past him, you can probably get near the belt. I won’t ruin the end of the match, but you’ve probably guessed what it is already. The outcome isn’t why I picked this match, it is the unique situation NXT has created here. Ciampa, Gargano and Ohno are all proving to be bigger than the belt.
All of WWE NXT is available on the WWE Network.